The 96-77 loss that Wake Forest took on Saturday night to Louisville was expected, but for the first time in a long time the Deacs were simply uncompetitive in a conference game.
This was the first game where I felt like Wake Forest was back in the days of the previous coach, and those memories are simply not ones that I want to be reminded of.
After jumping out to a quick 17-8 lead behind sharp shooting, intelligent basketball, and intense effort on both ends, the Deacs completely fell apart, getting outscored the rest of the way 88-60, including a time when it was 82-51 Louisville, a 74-34 run in a 25 minute span from the 14 min. mark in the first half to the 9 min. mark in the second half.
The 19 point final deficit was actually better than the product on the court would suggest, which is not promising at all.
Louisville got down early and fought back with tenacious defense and smart basketball. When Wake was counterpunched it didn’t just fail to punch back, but completely collapsed into the same mindless basketball that has plagued the team all season.
There isn’t a lot more to say at this point about the Louisville game in particular, but the overall tone of the loss and the aftermath suggests far more about where Wake Forest currently is as a program than the final score would indicate.
I fully understand that sometimes teams just lose to better teams, and sometimes that’s by a lot. Wake has lost seven straight ACC games, and four of the last five have been by double digits. The one game that wasn’t was a 9 point loss to N.C. State on the road.
The fans are apathetic, the team simply does not get back on defense, leading to amazingly easy transition baskets, and when the shots aren’t falling the overall effort disintegrates into a Bzdelikian level of simply not giving a damn.
We are halfway through the conference season, and with an 8-13 (1-8) record, Danny Manning has used up any goodwill (and then some) that was out there with the fans following a First Four berth in the NCAA Tournament last season.
[Name Redacted] finished his Wake Forest career with a 2-32 record (6%) on the road in the ACC, and Danny Manning currently sits at 3-29 (9%) , going winless in his first two seasons before going 3-6 last season, and now at 0-5 this season.
That means since Dino Gaudio was let go at the end of the 2009-2010 season Wake Forest is a woeful 5-61 (8%) on the road in ACC conference play. Virginia has won four games on the road already this season through just nine games played.
Overall Wake Forest is 34-97 (26%) in conference play, with just one season where it has won more than 6 games in a single year.
Manning is still tied with [Name Redacted] in conference wins (17), and while Manning’s winning percentage is currently better than He Who Shall Not Be Named (17-51, (25%) compared to 17-46 (27%)), there is still a chance that they could have the same record through 68 conference games.
I never thought I would ever have to compare the record of another Wake Forest coach to what we witnessed from 2011-2014, but here we are, and here we go again.
There are a lot of excuses that can be made when assessing why there has been such a big step back for Wake this season. The departures of John Collins and Dinos Mitoglou, the injuries, as well as the front-loaded ACC schedule (hardest in the ACC so far this season), but these excuses don’t begin to cover the lack of effort, execution, and failure of the coaching staff to address the concerns that are currently occurring on the court.
I am not trying to “kick the team” while it’s down, but there has to be accountability for the product on the court, and that stems from the coaching staff and each player individually.
Looking at conference only stats there are a lot of reasons to be concerned. Wake has the second worst offense and the sixth worst defense in the conference. It ranks last in forcing turnovers, and also ranks last in allowing opponents to get to the free throw line.
It’s hard to be the worst at both of those categories because if you force a lot of steals then you are going to get called for a fair amount of fouls (overall). Wake is slow on defense, just plain bad on pick-and-roll defense, and lacks the lateral foot speed up top to seemingly keep up with any opposing guards.
I honestly believe that I am fairly realistic when assessing the team overall, and I intentionally waited 36 hours before writing this article to make sure I wasn’t just spouting off emotionally with no logic backing my nonsense.
The mistakes being made on the court are, as I have said several times, inexcusable, and it is tiring to watch the same things occur over and over again with no repercussions for the errors.
I still believe that this team is much better than it has shown this season, and the sum of its parts are nowhere near where it should be based on the individual players on the team. The record is all that matters though, and Wake Forest is not a good team at all right now.
Wake Forest gets back into action on Wednesday night when it hosts a 16-5 Florida State team, who has won three straight games following a 103-94 win over Miami on Saturday afternoon.
Following that it will host a ranked 17-4 Clemson team on Saturday, but a team that lost one of its best players in Donte Grantham for the season.
If the Deacs want to avoid a 1-12 start to conference play then it needs to win one of these two games, as the next two are on the road at Miami and Syracuse.
The back of the schedule provides several opportunities for the Deacs to grab a few victories, including a series with Georgia Tech, and an away game against Pittsburgh.
Wake will also have a decent shot against N.C. State and Notre Dame in Winston-Salem, particularly if the Irish don’t get all their guys back from injury.
All of these games are winnable if the team picks itself up, addresses the problems on the court, and continues to work towards getting better every day.
Saturday night’s performance was abhorrent in every single way (where even the shorts and jersey tops failed to match). Let’s hope that was rock bottom and the wake up call that this team needs to try to gain back some respectability before the season is over.